Ah yes, it’s time for a D.C. United vs. New York Red Bulls game. To start off the Atlantic Cup this year, the Black-and-Red hit the road up to Jersey, where truly anything can happen between these two teams.
This week, we’re predicting not total disaster, which is kind of nice.
Mo' shrubs, no problems. D.C. United will claim their first road result of 2017 and kick off their latest defense of the Atlantic Cup with three big points in New Jersey. The hosts get on the board first through—who else?—Bradley Wright-Phillips, but Steve Birnbaum gets on the end of a Lloyd Sam set piece just before halftime to level the score. Jose Ortiz and Patrick Nyarko strike in quick succession after the break, both on assists from Luciano Acosta, to give Los Capitalinos the lead and some breathing. They'll need the cushion, though, as the Red Bulls throw everyone forward and cut into the lead with a late goal (sound familiar?). The Black-and-Red hang on 3-2.
So when D.C. scored twice, including at the death, at RBA last September, it was the first goal there in almost 600 minutes, regular season and playoffs. And they were scoring goals last year to boot! I think they will get one here from Ian Harkes, but the Metros will probably go to a new formation, or at the very least a safe one like the Crew did in RFK a couple weeks back, for the sake of a result and not progress. BWP will give them that, with goals in the 18th and 71st minutes in a 2-1 win.
In a game featuring a team with the fourth highest possession percentage in the league (Red Bulls, 54.5%) and the team with the third lowest possession percentage in the league (D.C., 44.3%), it seems apparent that United's success is going to depend on them making the best of what could be few bona fide chances. Luckily for United, despite shooting an 18th ranked 10.8 times per game, they're putting an 8th ranked 4.4 shots per game on target. So while Bradley Wright-Phillips may put one in in the first half, Luciano Acosta will do it late in the second half to salvage a 1-1 draw. Never forget:
Donald Wine II
Red Bull has been struggling as of late and it seems like their defense hasn’t quite put it all together. They will likely employ a new look against the Black-and-Red to get BWP more freedom to take some shots. Will it work? I think they take around 15 shots, but none of them reach the back of the net. Bill Hamid stands on his head and the back line bends but doesn’t break. On the offensive attack, we’ll have some chances, but not nearly as many as Red Bull. Still, a late goal by Lloyd Sam will be the difference and it’s 1-0 to the good guys at RFK North.
Even after reverting to the 4231 last week, the Red Bulls didn't look like themselves just yet. Injury-enforced defensive changes and an inability to replace Dax McCarty have left them vulnerable, and they've given up as many set piece goals as anyone in MLS (thanks in part to some Luis Robles mistakes). They're on a four game winless streak for a reason. However, United hasn't played particularly well this season either, and their one road game was a real disaster. On top of that, the Red Bulls are unbeaten in 16 straight at Red Bull Arena.
There's a lot of less-than-ideal signs for both of these teams right now, and that's what I suspect we'll see. NYRB will have the better of play, but United will create just as many good chances on the counter. That's not how they'll score, though. Instead, it'll be Steve Birnbaum nodding in a Lloyd Sam corner, because I don't think the Red Bulls are going to correct their set piece issues in just one week. Just when this game starts to look like a pretty significant road win for United, though, Bradley Wright-Phillips will strike after the Red Bulls put together their best attack of the game. Bill Hamid will make two or three big saves late on, and this one ends up in a 1-1 draw.
Scoring has been hard enough for DCU so far this season, and I don’t think it will be any easier at Red Bull Arena. That said, these games are always something special, for better or worse, and I’m confident that goals will be scored. Bill Hamid will also have to continue being a total beast, because of course. In the end, though, I don’t see a win for the visitors, and the points are shared in a 2-2 draw. Lloyd Sam and Lucho Acosta net for United.
What do you think will happen tomorrow? Share your predictions in the comments, but first, your poll of the week:
We’re casting DCU players in NYC films. Who belongs in which movie?
This poll is closed
Taylor Kemp and Steven Birnbaum in On the Town
Sébastien Le Toux in Rear Window
Bobby Boswell in Ghostbusters
Jared Jeffrey, Ian Harkes, and Julian Buescher in The Muppets Take Manhattan